Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry H. Boyce announced Tuesday that 43-year-old Gary Paul Henley, of Weldon, has been sentenced to 70 years in prison (35 years each) on two separate counts of Murder in the First Degree stemming from an incident that occurred on Sept. 21, 2010 in Weldon.
According to an affidavit filed by Investigator Ricky Morales, on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010 at approximately 10:30 p.m. the Jackson County Sheriff's Office received a call from a subject advising that officers and an ambulance was needed at 1401 Madison Street in Weldon. Officers responded and upon arrival at the scene located Gary Paul Henley who stated he had been attacked and was scared. Deputies entered the residence and discovered the bodies of Steven Lynn Bridgman, of Weldon, and Ina Lynn Bridgman, also of Weldon, lying in the bathroom floor with apparent gunshot wounds. Investigators also located a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol in a clear baggie along with several bloody spent casings. The following day investigators conducted an interview with Henley who waived his rights and agreed to answer questions. During the interview Henley revealed that he had shot Mr. Bridgman in stomach, with the .22 caliber pistol, causing him to fall to the floor. He then walked to the bathroom and shot Mrs. Bridgman twice, with the same gun, then proceeded to drag Mr. Bridgeman's body into the bathroom and began to clean the crime scene. On Sept. 23 investigators were contacted by the medical examiner at the Arkansas State Crime Lab with his preliminary findings. He indicated that Mrs. Bridgeman was shot a total of five times in the head and Mr. Bridgman was the recipient of 4 shots in the head. Investigators, having heard the medical examiners findings, conducted a second interview with Henley. He told police that after initially shooting Mr. Birdgman he was by the front door when he heard Mrs. Bridgeman in the bathroom. He advanced towards her, shooting her approximately two times in the stomach area. He then returned to the living room saw Mr. Bridgman still moving, located his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and shot him in the head to keep him from moving. Henley returned to the bathroom, a second time, saw Mrs. Bridgman moving and shot her in the head with the .45 caliber pistol. After hearing extensive testimony regarding Henley's mental disease, Jackson County Circuit Judge Harold Erwin ordered the convictions to run consecutively. In Arkansas a defendant convicted of first degree murder must serve 70 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole. "Henley was 41 years old when he was arrested for these murders and has admitted his guilt," said Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry H. Boyce. "He will be 90 years old before he becomes eligible for parole. The surviving family members have agreed to this plea and in lieu of the fact that this agreement is tantamount (virtually the same as) to a life sentence we feel it is the best result without putting the family through the emotional strain of a trial."